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Economic Reform, Education Expansion, and Earnings Inequality for Urban Males in China, 1988-2007

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  • Xin Meng
  • Kailing Shen
  • Sen Xue

Abstract

In the past 20 years the average real earnings of Chinese urban male workers have increased by 350 per cent. Accompanying this unprecedented growth is a considerable increase in earnings inequality. Between 1988 and 2007 the variance of log earnings increased from 0.27 to 0.48, a 78 per cent increase. Using a unique set of repeated cross-sectional data this paper examines the causes of this increase in earnings inequality. We find that the major changes occurred in the 1990s when the labour market moved from a centrally planned system to a market oriented system. The decomposition exercise conducted in the paper identifies the factor that drives the significant increase in the earnings variance in the 1990s to be an increase in the within-education-experience cell residual variances. Such an increase may be explained mainly by the increase in the price of unobserved skills. When an economy shifts from an administratively determined wage system to a market-oriented one, rewards to both observed and unobserved skills increase. The turn of the century saw a slowing down of the reward to both the observed and unobserved skills, due largely to the college expansion program that occurred at the end of the 1990s.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 639.

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Date of creation: Apr 2010
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Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:639

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Keywords: Earnings inequality; China;

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References

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  1. Meng,Xin, 2000. "Labour Market Reform in China," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521771269, Fall.
  2. Loren Brandt & Carsten Holz, 2005. "Spatial Price Differences in China: Estimates and Implications," Microeconomics 0512001, EconWPA.
  3. Meng, Xin & Gregory, Robert & Wan, Guanghua, 2006. "China Urban Poverty and its Contributing Factors, 1986-2000," Working Paper Series RP2006/133, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  4. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  5. Meng, Xin & Gregory, Robert & Wang, Youjuan, 2005. "Poverty, inequality, and growth in urban China, 1986-2000," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 710-729, December.
  6. Nidardo, J. & Fortin, N. & Lemieux, T., 1994. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Papers 93-94-15, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  7. Marcos Chamon & Eswar Prasad, 2008. "Why Are Saving Rates of Urban Households in China Rising?," IMF Working Papers 08/145, International Monetary Fund.
  8. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
  9. Gong, Cathy Honge & Meng, Xin, 2008. "Regional Price Differences in Urban China 1986-2001: Estimation and Implication," IZA Discussion Papers 3621, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Xuejun Liu & Albert Park & Yaohui Zhao, 2010. "Explaining Rising Returns to Education in Urban China in the 1990s," Trade Working Papers 22720, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
  11. Xin Meng & Robert G Gregory, . "Impact of Interupted Education on Earnings: The Educational Cost of the Chinese Cultural revolution," Canadian International Labour Network Working Papers 40, McMaster University.
  12. John Gibson & Jikun Huang & Scott Rozelle, 2002. "Improving Estimates of Inequality and Poverty From Urban China’s Household Income and Expenditure Survey," Working Papers in Economics 02/01, University of Waikato, Department of Economics.
  13. Meng, Xin & Gregory, R G, 2002. "The Impact of Interrupted Education on Subsequent Educational Attainment: A Cost of the Chinese Cultural Revolution," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50(4), pages 935-59, July.
  14. Thomas Lemieux, 2002. "Decomposing changes in wage distributions: a unified approach," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 35(4), pages 646-688, November.
  15. Thomas Lemieux, 2006. "Increasing Residual Wage Inequality: Composition Effects, Noisy Data, or Rising Demand for Skill?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 461-498, June.
  16. Zhang, Junsen & Zhao, Yaohui & Park, Albert & Song, Xiaoqing, 2005. "Economic returns to schooling in urban China, 1988 to 2001," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 730-752, December.
  17. Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt & John Giles & Sangui Wang, 2005. "Income Inequality During China's Economic Transition," Working Papers tecipa-238, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
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Cited by:
  1. Xing, Chunbing, 2010. "Residual Wage Inequality in Urban China, 1995-2007," IZA Discussion Papers 5003, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Kang, Lili & Peng, Fei, 2014. "Acquisition Premiums of Executive Compensation in China: a Matching View," MPRA Paper 55766, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Cui, Yuling & Nahm, Daehoon & Tani, Massimiliano, 2013. "Earnings Differentials and Returns to Education in China, 1995-2008," IZA Discussion Papers 7349, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Wenshu Gao & Russell Smyth, 2012. "Returns to Schooling in Urban China, 2001-2010: Evidence from Three Waves of the China Urban Labor Survey," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series 50-12, Monash University, Department of Economics.

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